Adam Kushner, MD

Albert Schweitzer, MD

A few years ago, when I was still running the DV Dojo (a video bar/cafe in the East Village), a young man walked into my place, had a drink, and signed on for the one-week video training course.

He said his name was Adam Kushner, and he was a doctor headed for Africa.

This was in 2002, so that was 6 years ago.

Since then, Adam has faithfully sent me and many others monthly updates on his progress and the work he is doing. I just got his most recent update today.

The funny thing about having a video bar is that you never know who is going to walk in through the door. One day it’s Al Gore, and one day it’s Albert Schweitzer.

Albert Schweitzer, you may recall, was a German doctor who went to work in Africa; founded the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lamerene, French West Africa (now Gabon), and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. (He died in 1965 at the age of 90). He is best known for his medical work in Africa, and for the phrase ‘reverence for life’. He was an astonishing man of great accomplishment.

The funny this with Schweitzers is that you never know them when you meet them, and certainly I did not think of Adam Kushner as anything remarkable – at least, nothing more remarkable than a New York based doctor who was going to Africa for a few weeks and wanted to learn to shoot a little video.

Kushner’s monthly emails over the years have proven me wrong on that assessment.

Here’s a sample:

It is an often mistaken belief that crocodiles are the most dangerous animals and that hippopotami are cute docile creatures. The reality is that more people die every year from attacks by hippos than from crocodiles – at least that’s what I’ve been told. Actually though, a few nights ago the distinction didn’t really matter. I was on call and heading to the hospital at night to operate on a woman we were presuming had a midgut volvulus (twisting of the small intestines) – she did as I ultimately found out at 3 am; there was however, a delay.

The delay was caused by a guy who was transfer in from Deza District Hospital (about an hour south of Lilongwe.) The story is he was out in a river or marsh cutting reeds and a croc took a bite of his right leg. His lower extremity wasn’t totally amputated, but looked like it had been used as a toothpick. Given the extent of the injury and the long time before he arrived at KCH our only option was to amputate. He is currently doing well.

So there I was thinking things like this just wouldn’t happen in New York. First of all, its rare enough to have a case of midgut volvulus in an adult – although it could happen and I remember doing one case as a resident – but a crocodile bite; never. Unless of course someone got into the crocodile tank at the zoo, but the likelihood of that, well, not worth considering. I was though sort of reminded of the time shortly after I arrived in San Antonio for residency and was called to see a guy in the Emergency Department with what was billed as a Rodeo Clown injury. Many injuries are often related to the local environment.

Anyway, I digress. So the crocodile victim is having his leg amputated and I’m waiting to operate on the woman with the volvulus when I’m told there is another trauma patient that just arrived from Kasungu District Hospital (about an hour north of Lilongwe.) So, I go to casualty and take a look. The story is he was riding a bike and was attacked by a hippo. Yes, as in hippopotamus; and it wasn’t pretty.

His trip to Africa for a few weeks led to a lifelong crusade for improved medical care in the developing world. I lifted the following from his bio:

Dr. Kushner has worked as a general surgeon and educator in
Malawi, Sierra Leone, Sudan,
Ethiopia, and Haiti. He also conducted human rights assessments in Iraq for Physicians for Human
Rights; taught trauma care and emergency management of landmine injuries to medical personnel
working in landmine affected regions of
Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Colombia; and worked as a health
specialist with the International Rescue Committee during the
Indonesia tsunami response. Since
2003 he has participated in US military training exercises where he functions as a subject matter
expert for human rights and humanitarian assistance issues. He is a director of the
New York
Society of International Humanitarian Surgeons and a board member of AMEND.ORG.

But I also urge you to take a look at his webpage

We in the TV business like to say, it isn’t brain surgery.

But sometimes … is.


3 responses to “Adam Kushner, MD

  1. Michael,

    What a beautiful (and ghastly) post! It’s great to once again be reminded:

    1) There are people out there who devote their lives to this kind of work.
    2) My own little world, even though it might have challenges, is a rather fortunate place to be.

    It gives perspective. No matter what my challenges, at least I don’t live in a place where amputation is a casual occurrence; neither are attacking hippos or crocodiles.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

    (I just subscribed to your RSS feed.)

  2. Pingback: CORRIDOIO, porte d'interferenza » Un grande nome per una piccola squadra

  3. Pingback: Un grande nome per una piccola squadra | Basket Catanese

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